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SERVICE, SERVIC, SERVI / Victoria Redel WE WERE JUST GETTING nouveau, "nuevo," Marguerite called it when the boxes arrived. SUver and crystal, mink jackets to summer in storage, chandeUers, and there were french doors to be hung. "Das ist zu reich," squealed Irma when the Oriental was unrolled. Here are the Wedgwood bowls, a security system, a marble-floored foyer where chUdren sprawl playing jacks. Here is Gracida carrying a laundry basket saying something that sounds Uke a Spanish curse or a Spanish prayer. The maids. The maids. The maids. This story, for what it is worth, might have been caUed "Getting Good Help." And whUe, obviously, it is not necessary, let me, nevertheless, get all the maids out in the open, to give them, if you will, their due share, their Christmas bonus, their two weeks' severance pay, their green card—Immigration wiUing. Here then are: Graciela; DeUa; Leita; SaUy; PUar; Lucha; Lucha's cousin, Luchas; then, what's-her-name? the one Mother swore was Eva Braun, Vilma; Irma; Erlene; Margaret; Marguerita; there are surely more, though these are the only ones I can instantly call to mind. "This introduction of the maids," caUs Mother from the dining room, "is typical of your looking at all the wrong things, of your wanting desperately, at all cost, to look so woefuUy poor." At dinner, Mother shakes her damsel beU, the brass legs kicking under the brass hoop skirt. The swing door pushes open and here is—oh, who is it? Paviola? did I mention Paviola?—backing hip first into the dining room, the sUver service tray offered, always on the proper side and always first to Father. On the dining room waUs there are paintings—a bowl resplendent with fruits, a Loca painting of a barefoot boy. No framed posters in this house. Here is the real thing, spotUghted and in a gut frame and, just Uke aU the other paintings, hung throughout this cultured vUlage. (Of course Mother is right about me with the maids. I would rather serve myself leftovers with whomever on the kitchen side of the swing door rather than dine here in the clothed and candleUghted dining room.) "S'U vous plait," caUs Mother, "take your guUt and give us aU a break." The Missouri Review · 21 Please, let me now jump ahead, out the front door, past Enrico and Dante cUpping the shrubs, to show you the SERVIC sign, that is SERVICE minus the E that Mother's Cadillac tore off. This is the SERWC sign that points down the driveway to the back door, though unfortunately, this SERWC door brings us fuU circle back, aU too quickly, particularly to DeUa, or generaUy back to maids. It was, Mother claims, the power steering that brought the CadUlac beyond the ninety degrees and into the arm of the darkie jockey (Yes, the very kind you imagine—monkey-sized, in riding silks, lamp in one hand. They must be against the law by now), temporarily taking down the sign and permanently taking off the E. The Caddy was not harmed, just a Uttle gold paint from one of the blackamoor's buttons scratched into the fender. It was only later that Mother's conviction flowered, if conviction can be considered a thing to have a pollination, a germination, a bud to be nipped or bloomed. Imagine Mother's ire coming to the just-created SERWC door, seeing DeUa poüshing the sUver serving tray, the three partitions—meat, vegetable, and potato—gleaming, ready for food, and in Mother's hand the local paper with a fuU inventory of stolen goods from the heist at 45 White Birch Lane, new maid M.I.A. Did it matter that said housekeeper was Jamaican and DeUa was Georgia-bred right back to the baU-and-chain boat? "It is so easy to ridicule," calls Mother from the dining room, "but answer me this, does Father work night and day so that we should just open the door and hand out our possessions Uke hoUday candy?" Room to room, let us go now. No tricks and aU treats! Let us peer into the loot bag fiUed with Father's night...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 21-26
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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